Simon tip: Preview

Dejal Simon version 2.4 was recently released, and a few of the changes in this version related to the Preview window. This window may not get much love, so I thought I'd devote a tip blog post to it.

As you know, Simon is a website and server monitoring tool. This mouthful is to try to describe two of the levels that Simon operates at. At the very basic level, Simon is a very simple utility to watch web sites, and let you know when they change or go down. But Simon has much more depth to it — it enables you to monitor all sorts of internet servers and services, local applications, local and remote disk volumes, and more.

The Preview window has this duality, too. When used with a web-based test (i.e. one using the Web (HTTP) service), it displays the HTML source at the top of the window, and the rendered web page and graphics in the bottom, with a URL field, Back/Forward buttons, and more, and links etc are fully functional:

Preview for web

This is really handy, both to quickly see the page while in Simon, without having to switch to a web browser (which is easy too, via the Visit Site command), and when setting up the test in the first place.

One of Simon's key features is the Smart Change Detection function. This is a section of the Edit Test window, where you can tell Simon to only look at the HTML source between two blocks of text. This enables you to focus on the part of the page you care about, and avoid dynamic portions like banner ads etc. You can easily set this up via the Preview window. With the Edit Test window open, after entering the URL, click the Preview button to display the preview of the page. Then search through the HTML source for the start text, select it, and click the Copy to Test toolbar button. This will copy that selected text to the Start field in the Edit Test window. Then you can find and select the end text, click the button again, and it's copied to the End text field. Easy!

Smart Change Detection

As useful as this is, it's not done yet. The Preview window is also supported by many other services, in a slightly different way. For non-web services, the Preview window looks a little different. Instead of the HTML source, it displays a summary of the service operation at the top (e.g. the script), and the output at the bottom. This is all plain text, since that's what these services deal with:

Preview for others

These services support the Smart Change Detection feature, too: just like with web pages, you can select text and click Copy to Test (or copy manually) to set up the Start and End text blocks. Unlike web, you can do it from either the source or output areas (and choose those as options in the Smart Change Detection section).

The Script- and Port-based services already supported this mode, but version 2.4 extended it to include the Application and Ping services, too, along with the new Twitter service. So you can now see more information about exactly what's going on with the Ping checks, and more information about the other services. Version 2.4 also made the Preview window more responsive for this mode, showing the source script immediately, instead of after the check is complete, so you can see what it's doing.

I hope you'll use the Preview window to good advantage when configuring and using Simon.